EATON — The 2015 Eaton Cross Country season begins like many new seasons, with high hopes and expectations across the board as a talented to group gets ready.
For the boys’ team, Seth Gard returns after a state-qualifying season as a sophomore. The junior will be looked on to lead the Eagles on and off the course.
Gard will have plenty of talent around him as Tanner Tiktemeyer returns for his sophomore year after an outstanding freshman season. Senior Ben Bassler enters his fourth season as a varsity runner.
Head coach Randy McKinney said those three are considered his “top-top runners” but it doesn’t mean the talent stops there.
McKinney believes three other seniors have a chance to contribute to the team, with Brandon Pew, Sam Stewart and Christian Collie all entering their last season.
Mack Alton and Steve Cottle will also be competing for spots on the team, and McKinney believes each one has a chance to become key contributors.
To add to talent already in place, McKinney said a talented group of freshmen has created a very focused practice atmosphere, as team members are battling for positions in the top seven runners.
McKinney however didn’t talk much about the freshman class for the boys or girls, both whom he says are talented.
“I won’t talk about some runners who I think are going to be…really good, because they are freshman and I don’t talk about them until they’ve competed,” he said.
McKinney said for both teams the goals are the same every year: “Our goals are the same every year, get to the state meet, win a league title and improve throughout the season.”
The girls however are in a slightly different stage and McKinney called them a team in transition after losing senior graduates.
The talent is there for the Lady Eagles, as sophomores Sasha Taxter, Katie Bassler and Destiny Brubaker all returned after strong freshmen seasons.
They will be joined by Lauren Muncy, who enters her fourth and final season as a varsity runner. She will share the role as a leader with experience with fellow senior Allison Webb.
McKinney said this year the goal of state might not be realistic for the girls, because of their age, but he believes they have a chance to qualify for regionals.
Both teams will find out how much better they will need to get over the course of the season when they travel to Tiffin on Saturday, Sept. 12.
McKinney said some of the top teams and runners in the state will be there and the meet is a good early test for the program as a whole.
McKinney also said the Eaton Invitational is important every year for the team as it is their home course.